In a social-media driven world full of perfect, curated images, it can be hard to not compare yourself to others, and love the body you are in. Since we could all use a little boost from time to time, we chatted with top fitness and nutrition experts on simple ways to promote positive body image. After all, there’s never a better time to start loving yourself than right now.
- Exercise because you want to, not because you have to.
Consider your relationship with exercise; do you do it because you have to or because you want to? When exercise is viewed as a mandate, essential only for desired aesthetics, it begins to feel like punishment, creating a negative experience that can last well after the workout is through. According to K. Aleisha Fetters MS, CSCS creator of Show Your Strength, “when people begin to exercise for performance, rather than trying to ‘fix’ something, their body image changes drastically.” Seeing your body adapting, progressing and performing tasks that didn’t feel possible before allows you to have new appreciation for what your body can do.
To begin, focus on what activities bring you the most enjoyment. Ignore the suggested caloric burns on the machines (they’re usually off anyways) and instead focus on what makes you feel your best.
- Don’t dwell in negative space
Even the most self-assured individuals can feel down about their bodies from time to time. After all, we’re only human. Instead of lingering in that space, turn a negative into a positive. Anne Mauney MPH, RD, author of fANNEtastic food offers up this advice. “Anytime your notice yourself criticizing your body, acknowledge it and then offer up something positive instead that’s not image related. Focus on the things your body can do, like enjoying a nice walk or picking up your child.”
Additionally, begin to identify what triggers you to feel badly about your body. Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, CD, Body Positivity Champion at Nourish Nutrition encourages you to “get to the source of negative thoughts about your body. If you are able to recognize and resist those feelings, you’re in a better place to move beyond them.” If you notice that you’re feeling less-than after watching a certain reality show, reading a magazine or being around various individuals, you’re able to either avoid these situations or create a game-plan for moving on.
- Follow body-positive people on social media
It’s easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you surround yourself with those who recognize the importance of liking yourself for who you naturally are. The same is true for who we follow on social media. Rachael Hartley RD/LD, CDE, CLT, author of Joyful Eating, Nourished Life advises to, “follow plus-sized models and healthy-at-every-size activists on Instagram. In traditional media, we’re exposed to a very narrow definition of beauty. It’s important to train our eyes to recognize that beauty isn’t size specific.” Favorite accounts include @healthyisthenewskinny, @hapsters and @dove.
- Practice gratitude.
Keep a daily gratitude journal to reflect on all the wonderful things you were able to do or experience. Focusing on abundance, on possibilities, is a powerful framework for feeling good about one’s life, hopefully spilling over into body-image. Rebecca Clyde agrees, adding, “you are more than your body. Instead of focusing on how your body looks, write down a few things everyday about what you are grateful for.”
- Practice Self-Care
It’s easier to love your body when you take care of it. Whatever makes you feel your best, indulge often. Whether that’s 10 minutes of morning meditation, curling up uninterrupted with a good book, or getting a massage, you are worth it.
Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.”
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.